Did his nonprofit clients know this? Did they care?
A while ago, I read an interview with a nationally known nonprofit consultant (and whose name I will not use). He’s the kind of guy you see getting paid for delivering keynotes at conferences and getting huge fees for short consulting gigs…. in other words, the kind of person who you’d say “wow, I want to be him when I grow up” if you’re just starting in business, or even if you’re in it for a while.
Here’s what shocked me: he was very upfront to say that he really didn’t care about his client’s mission, as long as they paid him. He wasn’t kidding. He cited clients on both sides of the most controversial issues of our day. I’m sure he could have said exactly how much he raised for each, too… and it wasn’t small.
There’s a lot to be said for that kind of approach when it comes to earning a living in this business. After all, who are you to judge? If you can get them to hire you, and as long as you, or your client, are not doing anything illegal, then go for it, right?
For many of us, this is simply not the case. If you consult in the nonprofit sector, chances are that your client’s mission counts at least to some degree. You probably have missions that you are particularly dedicated to. They grab your emotions for reasons that you may or may not be able to explain. Maybe it’s environmental causes because you loved a nearby park, when your child. It could be education because your parents sacrificed for yours, when they realized what limits a lack of education placed on them. Then there are the missions in which you are trained. Did you go to school for social work? Were you a musician? It would be nice if emotionally you were engaged in some field that you were also trained in, but even if that’s not the case, you certainly are not against an organization who carries out that mission.
So where’s the line for you? I highly encourage you to figure that out now. It’s a lot easier to have this discussion intellectually when the stakes are low. It sure beats struggling with whether you take on a well paying client or not when you’re not sure you agree with their mission. You may tell yourself that you will never work with X, Y or Z kind of organization. That’s nice to say now. When they show you the buckets of money will it be your answer, later?